The Hayne Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry created a tsunami of negative headlines and chatter. It was as though the ‘wolf of wall street’ took a stroll in Australia, not to share its practices, but certainly some behaviours.
The report shed light on some significant leadership failures, such as a lack of accountability and governance and more importantly, an obvious mismanagement of workplace culture. Workplace culture is universal, whether you are in finance or hospitality or the public sector – we are all in an environment where our work, behaviour and conduct become a reflection of workplace culture.
The silver lining of the Banking Royal Commission is that now, there is no hiding from the problem. The question be whether the banks decide to use ‘band-aids’ to heal a problem that requires significant corrective surgery and some ‘rehab’.
For the rest of us outside the banking bubble, here are 5 things all businesses can learn about workplace culture from the Banking Royal Commission:
Culture provides a backbone in decision making
Culture defines the ability of the management team and employees to relate to each other for the common good of the business. People who feel disconnected from the business won’t act in the best interests of the company.
A clear takeaway from the Banking Royal Commission is that now, there is increased expectations to actively play a positive role in shaping workplace culture.
Apathy vs Ignorance – Teams taking responsibility
A cross country runner is likely to run in different terrain and surfaces, and of course, if they step in a hole, there is a good chance of injury. When falls occur, the runner is sometimes unaware of the change in surface or wasn’t paying attention to it. On other occasions, they know they are running through uneven ground and do it anyway. Sometimes they move through without a problem and other times their skill is beaten by the obstacle they misjudged.
These holes in the road are also in business. There are leaders who know there’s a problem and don’t do anything about it and there are also leaders who are too caught up in the daily grind, and don’t see the problem. In this instance, ignorance is not always bliss, instead it’s the start of a culture that fails.
It’s more than creating a workplace that encourages acknowledgement of ‘holes’, but a place where leaders help teams navigate the landscape and embrace innovation, fuelling new workable solutions.
When there is a problem in the workplace, staff should feel empowered to discuss it, express how it’s affecting their business and others, and models of thinking to explore a solution to the problem.
Curiosity drives Culture
People thrive when they are constantly learning, challenged and driven by curiosity to do better and be better when it matters to them. With this in mind, embracing curiosity unlocks value.
Curiosity is a mindset that helps people navigate obstacles and start them on the path to new discoveries that can benefit the business. Managing a culture that enables curiosity and what it brings is integral to navigating the future of business, especially for large or well-established organisations.
In managing this, too many businesses wait for performance reviews to seek or encourage curiosity, which is often too late. Instead, create an environment where performance is regularly discussed from a curious perspective. How can we make this work more effectively? What is getting in the way of success? What is going on behind the outcome we are getting?
The Survivor & Volunteer Mentality
A while back, John Evans’ study on culture known as the “Oz Model” explored the relationship between the way Australia’s feel about expressing their opinion, against how happy (or not so happy they are). Setting up a culture of volunteers, people who feel positive about expressing their feelings and opinion and are equally feeling positive about their time in the business are likely to contribute to solutions in a constructive way. In situations exposed in the Royal Commission, it is unlikely volunteers were at play.
On the other end of the spectrum, we see survivors, those who are not comfortable expressing their opinions or feelings, albeit they may feel happy in their role. This mentality in a culture reflects low levels of psychological safety, and ultimately leads to gaps in communication or issues that ‘fall through the cracks’.
- Staff can often feel like ‘survivors’ of the system they work in
- Explore how you can create a culture of volunteers
- Can silos in your organisation cultivate threat or internal competitiveness which is unhelpful to the ultimate success of your business?
Refreshing Culture – ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’
While all the above shines the light on challenges in business culture, it’s important to note that like Rome, culture wasn’t built in a day. If you are a medium to large size organisation who has been in operation for years, it will take time and significant investment to create a culture that empowers stakeholder and customer-centric decision making, curiosity, ownership and volunteers that bring your culture to life.
If culture isn’t considered a driver to performance and the bottom line, then the ownership of a significant cultural change is unlikely to occur. It is the continuous attention to this which moves the dial, not a new policy or system to manage in isolation.
Designing your culture by considering what you will see (literally see) in the actions of your teams will help you shape the way you progressively move the dial. And yes, it might even take a group of leaders who really want to leave a legacy that will have the tenacity and patience to see a significant cultural shift through.
Culture change is more like a game of chess, as opposed to checkers. Once you’re the game, there are many moves and interventions you will take to move the dial, and not every move will ‘work’. It is not one-dimensional, it is not going to change after a big conference or meeting, it is not going to happen because you tell your team to change.